by Alex, Aria, Sam, and Sarah
Our Service Learning partner was Mrs. Li. She is currently 72 years old and is a vegetable vendor at Xizhou's morning market.
Her full name is Li Jinlan (李金兰) and she has 5 siblings; 4 sisters and 1 younger brother. She has lived in Xizhou all her life but attended to school in Shacun when she was younger. Married at the age of 18, Mrs. Li also had her first child the first year she was married and told us that she married out of love and not just because of her parents' decisions.
I have learned a lot about her life. Mrs. Li had to leave school in 6th grade because of her family needing help with chores and farming, so instead of pursuing education, she had to start helping her family out at home to gather enough food. Life was hard back then; she explains that at times her family would have to eat wild grass for their meals because of the lack of food. Mrs. Li regrets not being able to finish school and thinks that she would probably be living a better life right now if she did so.
From this Service Learning experience, I have learned much more about Xizhou's history. Mrs. Li's experiences with the shortage of food during 1958 connects back with what I learned about the Great Leap Forward during Mr. T's 150 years in 150 minutes lesson. I have also learned about how Xizhou served home to the Flying Tigers during World War II. Mrs. Li, even though she was quite young at the time, remembers that there was a plane crash in Xizhou, but she says that the planes were generally very quiet and could not be heard. I have also learned that Chairman Mao was admired greatly in the village and the people all grieved when he passed away.
I have also learned more about China's 20th Century History through this experience. I have learned about how Chairman Mao's Great Leap Forward campaign affected the lives of the people living in Xizhou, and how it made life difficult by causing a shortage of food and need for more help in homes. I have learned about how living in China back then, especially in a rural village like Xizhou, was very difficult because of the lifestyle and all the major events.
Mrs. Li, unfortunately, could not attend the video showcase, so I am planning to show her the video before our departure. However, during the showcase, I noticed that people were quite heartfelt hearing her cheerful laugh and watching her smiles throughout the video. They especially enjoyed the part where she was describing Chairman Mao and gave out laughs when she was talking about his height and the mole on his chin. I am yet to find out how Mrs. Li will react to our Service Learning video.
I eventually was able to show Mrs. Li the video on the final day of Microcampus. She was unable to come the days before because of her family visiting in town and their participation in a Buddhist holiday. On the last day, she waited for me and my group at the Linden Commons in the morning, and was not aware that we were bringing her the DVD, fruits, and showing her the video. She was delighted to see us but was sad when she found out that we were leaving on that day.
When she was watching the video, she was chuckling at some of the scenes and she was delighted at the start when she saw the clip of her walking. Mrs. Li was smiling throughout the video and told us afterward that she enjoyed it. During the video, we noticed that she was also getting money out of her wallet for us and after finishing watching she insisted we take 100 each, but we did not accept it and insisted that she keep it and take the fruit and DVD. After watching it, we talked on our way out of the Linden Commons and took a picture. She could not believe that we were all leaving on that day and told us to give her a call whenever we had the chance back in Shanghai. After taking our picture and walking to the center of Sifangjie, we said our goodbyes before making our way home.
To future Microcampus students, I recommend you to start everything early. Make your connections as soon as you start the trip, and start filming early. The early stages of Service Learning are not stressful, but as the process progresses, things will start getting more stressful, especially towards the end when you start editing and producing your final video. It is important for you at this stage to take it slow and be thorough with everything rather than rush through the process just to get the video done. It is better to do a good job instead of a sloppy job making the video and do not hesitate to slow down. The best would be to start everything early so that you are not stressing on the last day when all the checks by the teachers need to be done. Pay attention to the small details of the video and be extremely thorough. Finally, stick to Mr. T's crystal clear instructions and you will be on the right path towards success!